Kaadalan and the politics of resignification : fashion, violence and the body

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Journal article

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Journal of Arts and Ideas

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The song 'Mukkaala Muqabla', from the Tamil film Kaadalan (Loverboy), has been the biggest hit of the year, perhaps of the decade. The peculiar voice of Mano has been resonating in cinema halls, living rooms, streets, and video coaches across the nation. The visual sequence of the song — which dominated various TV count-down shows such as Superhit Muqabla, BPL Oye and Philips Top Ten — is quite fantastic, even bizarre. A pastiche on spaghetti westerns, the sequence opens with the hero — his hair and beard bleached blonde — sitting on a horse with a noose around his neck and the bad guys about to shoot the horse. The heroine gallops into the frame with a gun and shoots off the rope to liberate the hero. Then begins the dance, performed with great élan by Prabhudeva. The sequence itself is a strip of narrative very much in the MTV genre, and has no apparent link to the larger narrative of the film. The song/dance sequence in Indian films has always been a relatively autonomous block, one of the requirements of the dominant form of manufacture rather than a diegetic necessity. This tendency of the song/dance sequence toward autonomy has been intensified in recent years by the competition of television and the MTV genre as well as by the market opened up by them. So elaborately orchestrated dance sequences, each representing an autonomous strip of narrative, have become an imperative for the survival of the film industry.

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This article also published in R. S. Vasudevan (Ed.) (2000), Making meaning in Indian cinema (pp. 191-214). Dehli: Oxford University Press.

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Recommended Citation

Dhareshwar, V., & Niranjana, T. (1996). Kaadalan and the politics of resignification: Fashion, violence and the body. Journal of Arts and Ideas, (29), 5-26.